Earlier this year I was contacted by a band from Ecuador who wanted to tour South Africa, and wanted me to make it happen.
I must admit I was rather chuffed that somewhere outside of South Africa’s borders, someone was impressed enough with the work I’ve done for Emalyth. *Instant ego boost* I accepted the mission, and like most Emalyth endeavours, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into, I just knew that this was going to be something fun, challenging, exciting and NEW.
Shajol are a four piece experimental metal band, from Ecuador. I guess they are called experimental because you can’t really fit them into a genre, every track is different. The band was in the middle of the recording process when they hit up South Africa for not only their first tour, but one of their first gigs as a band. I must admit, that little snippet of information came as a huge surprise to many who watched the show – Shajol are one of the tightest bands I have ever seen. So it turns out the government in Ecuador really supports metal, and gives band assistance with touring foreign countries. Two members had tickets sponsored by the ministry of culture, and the band self funded the last two tickets. *TIP* If you’re going to be a band that tours, when you start off, you have to be willing to lay down the groundwork moola.
This was seriously one of the hardest things I have done. You start out with one idea and plan, and by the time the tour starts, it’s completely different from the original idea. I think a good organiser needs to be able to brush off fuck ups, take responsibility for fuck ups (even if they are not yours) and fix them as quickly and best as possible. Originally I had hoped to have a date up in Bloemfontein. Unfortunately, none of the very many places I approached allowed for extreme metal. Sorry Bloem-I tried. It seems this province is still very much conservative.
The Free State was not the only place I struggled to secure a venue. With Burn in Durban and Jesters in PE closing down, venue owners dying and a whole array of other mishaps, there were quite a number of little Sash freak-outs. Sash freak-outs are usually accompanied by raging phone calls to my mentor, Gen. Tons of brownie points need to be awarded to Gen for listening to my complaints, then offering sympathy before telling me in a nice way to ‘fix it!’. I thought we had it rough with different venues up in Gauteng, but I realised that up in the Highveld ,we’re extremely spoilt in comparison to other cities.
I was very fortunate to get the guys from Boargazm to agree to do the tour with us. These guys are so jacked up and so experienced when it comes to touring, it’s pretty insane. The guys have played in tons of bands throughout the years and are so dedicated to music. The band has been going for just over a year now and they have released two albums and a music video. They were one of only two metal bands to play at Oppikoppi this year and were one of the opening acts for Italy’s Fleshgod Apocalypse.
Jason Hinch, Drummer of Boargazm told me not to take all the credit for the tour, but to take credit for knowing the right people to assist with the tour. The Van Der Walt brothers were amazing, and without them we definitely would not have had such a smooth time. They helped with transport vehicles and PA system requirements, they helped book accommodation and did all the driving – in fact one of the cutest moments of the tour is when we stopped on the drive up from Cape Town and Milton, and the vocalist of Shajol said “Man, I wanne be an Afrikaans. These guys can do anything.” He couldn’t believe Heine could make that drive without getting sleepy. These guys helped me when I hit dead walls and all round gave me tremendous amounts of support, guidance and encouragement.
Our sound engineer, Riaan Bothma and American roadie, Chris Sampedro were also huge help and hard workers. When the issue of sound engineering came up, there wasn’t any real discussion around it. It was just always known that Riaan would be our guy. Having a good sound engineer is vital to a good tour. Bands ALWAYS complain about sound engineers, and over the years I’ve become very weary of the band vs. engineer debacle. I really didn’t have to worry about that on this tour though, because Riaan Bothma is sound engineer GOD. Both bands loved his set up and mixing and all the shows were awesome in that regard. Even when catastrophe hit- like PA’s blowing out- our trusty sound guy was calm and collected and fixed it in no time. Every single band should hire this guy as their personal engineer.
Promotion was a huge part of organizing the show. Can’t have shows with no people ne? I really did my best to go all out on this one, though it was damned difficult to do for the coastal cities. I relied a lot on friends, the local venues and bands to help out with this-and they were really cool in this regard.
When I looked at support bands, I looked for bands who really work on their band and try promote not only themselves (a lot of bands don’t even do that-come on guys. Step up), but also who work hard at trying to build and promote the metal community in South Africa as a whole-bands who attend gigs and support other bands-those who are active in online forums etc. I really feel that if we are to truly build a strong, fortified South African metal community, which has always been the mission of Emalyth, we need more bands and people involved in metal to work hard. You can’t just sit back and expect a culture, scene, community-whatever you wanne call it-to develop without working hard at it and you can’t expect to be a successful band without constant attention and dedication.
To promote this show I printed thousands of fliers, designed by Bunny, and covered the streets and cars of Jozi, with companions Onyx and Denzyl Batserfield. Sorry for the litter guys.
I contacted radio stations, gig guides, magazines, newspapers, TV shows. I went facebook crazy and posted in groups, fanpages, forums. I pretty much used every trick and card, data base and contact that I have built over the past few years to promote that tour. Some people get annoyed with spam-I get annoyed when people say they didn’t know about a show.
And I think it worked out well. The Gauteng shows were pretty well attended- the coastal shows were smaller but the spirit was high and the gigs were awesome. I was little bummed that more people I had expected to come to the shows didn’t appear. There are a lot of bands and people, who both myself and the Emalyth brand have supported and promoted, who just didn’t pull through to the shows and it felt a little swak. (A huge thanks and hugs and love to those who did come out to support me and Emalyth in our biggest project yet-you guys know who you are, and you rock my world always!)
A lot of people, especially in some coastal cities, always complain that nothing happens, there are no gigs, no bands are good etc. Yet when there is a cool event-they don’t pitch up because it’s too far and entrance is too high. So again we come back to effort and what people and fans are willing to put into their scene. Food for thought ne guys?
And so the journey begins.
Two of the members from Shajol and our roadie, Chris, arrived at Jozi International airport on the 2nd of December. I went with fellow Emalythian and malcat, DJ F#ck Head to pick them up and we head back to the Outeniqua mansion to introduce these Spanish speaking guys to some South African culture: Beer, Braai and Bong.
The other guys were picked up on the later by Heine, and shipped off to Wolmer where they visited the Voortrekker Monument and Hatfield’s night clubs. This is also where they discovered Klipdrift aka Karate Juice, Lekker, Befok and Poes.
The first event was held on Wednesday the 5th of December, at Rumours Pub. I really enjoy gigs at this venue, because there is always a great turn out, and the place is so much classier than most venues. There are tons of tables where people can chill, a nice outside area, waiters and really great food. The owner is a sweetheart and the backline and PA system, sponsored by Toms of Braamfontien, is super legit. The support bands were Instrametal and Renounce: I really enjoy both these bands.
Instrametal have been around for a long time and every time I see them they appear to be more fantastic. Renounce were also, as always, super cool to party with, and super cool to watch. I just wish these guys would gig more. Enough with the unproductive year breaks guys. We wanne see more of you!
For a Wednesday night, Rumours filled up quite nicely, and I was glad to see a lot of (what I call) high-power media people thingies there. Big ups to Louis Du Pisani from MK Ondergrond and Tamara and Wayne Longbeard from Before the Witching Hour for their support. The opening show of the event was great fun, and everyone, including myself, was super impressed with Shajol. I didn’t really know what to expect from the band, I had heard a couple of tracks and chatted with some of the guys so I was super relieved at how mind blowingly good they are.
On the 7th of December we head through to the East Rand for what was undoubtedly the heaviest gig of the tour. Featuring Bloodbeast, Bleeding Spawn and Killatoria as the opening acts for Shajol and Boargazm, there was a vibrant and jovial crowd-mosh pits and walls of death. The guys from Shajol were taken with Bleeding Spawn, and spoke about them a lot throughout the remainder of the tour.
The next day we hit up Wolmer for their sweet 16 party. Wolmer was swarming people, and like at the previous two shows, it was great to see faces I hadn’t seen in a while, and support from other bands. Being the party place that Wolmer is, we got drunk, we got happy and we partied till really really late-this was the beginning of the realisation that I was not going to get my team to go to bed after a party at a decent time.
Sunday saw us head off to a late start with final trailer checks and round up of equipment, but just after 8am we packed into the cars and on the road to Kwa Zulu Natal. Our first stop was the afternoon braai gig at Red Door. Wowee what a place. I hadn’t been there before, but the minute I saw the R6 shooter list, I knew this was going to be one of those banging KZN metal events. I think for all of us, this was the coolest event. Although it rained like cats and dogs (for the most part of the tour actually) it was so much fun to party it up with the locals. I’ve always had a special place in my heart for the Durban metal community and having the support of Delia Drewett and Ebony and Aidan from Theatre Runs Red was the first special highlight of the tour for me.
The PMB show was supported but what I have dubbed- ‘Durban’s Super Band’. The members of Desolation are made up of musicians from different bands including Theatre Runs Red, Deny the Empire, Pledge Defiance, Vengeance Resides and Contrast the Water-all bands I have completely adored. No words can express the satisfaction I felt from watching these guys. My favourite bassist, Chase of Bass, was back on stage, and vocalist, Aldine van Dyk was every bit as brutal as I last remembered. Desolation was another band that the tour team could not stop talking about.
The second opening band for the event was Divine Affliction. This is one of those bands that work really hard to promote themselves and the Durban scene which has gone through a hardcore dive. The guys played an awesome set and really inspired me. I wish more bands had the drive and dedication these guys have.
After this show, the tour team really started to bond with each other and relax a little bit-no doubt due to the cheap shooters. The boys challenged each other to games of foosball and I was headbanging on the dance floor till it was time to hit the road. We drove about 80kms to the Bluff where we set up camp in a very beautiful and quiet reserve. It was a cool place for a bunch of rockstars to go wild and lose their shit at. Our campsite went up rather quickly and I was proud that I had managed to set up my tent alone, drunk and in the dark. The 3 days are kind of blurred-I recall rain, booze, braai’s, booze, a shopping cart and drunk people. The Monday was spent drinking, talking and bonding in the rain. After a rough night, Heine and I woke up to flooded tents and decided to book in at the lodges in the reserve. After two nights in the rain, we were all glad for a roof over our heads and dry beds.
On the Tuesday we head through to the Winston Pub for our second KZN show with Iraqi Death Police and Stellawood Decapitation. We had some problems with the PA system but Riaan fixed it up good and quick. Again it was awesome to see members from other bands coming out to show their support, and the Winston has undergone some super cool renovations. The KZN shows were a lot of fun and their bands are still really amazing. I cannot wait to start heading down to Durbs every few months for gigs again.
Thursday morning bright and early we head off for Raggies in East London. The one thing that really struck out to me about East London was how friendly everyone was-from the bar ladies, to the door staff, to the people in the restaurants and the owners of the bed and breakfast where we stayed. The owner of Raggies, Dylan Mugabe really hooked us up well with accommodation-huge thanks. The guys from Eviscerate were really cool to hang out with, and great to watch. Another big congrats goes to the drummer who found out he was going to be a dad just a few hours before. Eviscerate spoke highly of their companions, Reign of Terror down in PE and so we were amped to start that leg of the tour.
On the morning of the 14th we hit the very long road again. The destination was Jeffrey’s bay, where the Van Der Walt family welcomed us to their beautiful family holiday home. Right on the beach. We all used the opportunity to freshen up, and have a lovely lunch. Mev. Van Der Walt was so hospitable and put all of our dirty and wet clothes in the wash. After a week of touring it was nice to be in a relaxed family environment-especially because we all missed ours so much. We packed up and head off to PE’s DNE Nightclub. I must admit, the area that this club was located in looked damned dodgy, but the inside was pretty cool, with different dance floors and even a pool! From telephone conversations I had expected to find the owner, David, to be a white-haired grandpa in his late 50s. I was surprised to see a young Scotsman, with dreads and stretched ears. The door lady for the night, Tazz, was an absolute sweetheart and stole our hearts and made random people buy our merch. The guys from Reign of Terror reminded me a lot of Wolmer, and I think these boys would fit right in here. I’d really like to see more from both Eviscerate and Reign of Terror-I really hope they hit up Jozi soon.
After the gig in PE, a lot of us were sick and exhausted, but it didn’t stop us from sitting on the beach talking rubbish, drinking booze and smoking blunt till early hours. By this time the bands had become great friends- it was really cool to listen to the two drummers man crush on each other, and the two bassist talk about art and design-they guys really had so much in common with each other and I think both sides gained a lot of insight into each others countries and cultures.
Early on the morning of the 15th I was probably the most hated person in J-Bay as I had to get the boys up and ready for the 10 hour drive that lay ahead. That was probably the roughest part about the trip. We were tired, sickly and bored. Though we saw some amazing scenery, I know my brain was ready to shut down from the amount of complete and utter rubbish being discussed. The show in Cape Town was probably the quietest but again there was a great vibe and spirit. I really enjoyed the political content surrounding ING’s music and my biggest regret of the tour was being too exhausted to watch Suiderbees properly. I had been looking forward to headbanging to this band for so long, but with the sudden lack of energy drinks in my midst, the most I could muster was to sit and watch them from the side lines. After R.O.A.R the boys head back to Stellenbosch to crash at Cicero’s sister’s place and Jason and Chris parted ways to begin another tour with The Black Cat Bones-these guys are seriously dedicated musicians.
The Sunday was spent chilling and in the evening we had a lovely braai with Sachin Ramjee and his awesome friends. Heine, Shajol and I crashed at Ramjee’s house that night to get a good sleep before driving a whole 17 hours back to Johannesburg, one way- no stopping other than to stock up on smokes and munchies. Heine dropped us off at around 10pm and we chatted a little bit before heading off to bed. Galo and Milton left for the airport with my good friend and Emalyth photographer Lionel, and the two Davids and I spent the morning shopping for gifts to take back to Ecuador before jumping on the Gautrain to the airport.
I have had time to do a lot of reflection on the tour, and now that it’s over I really miss those ten crazy maldito’s and gigging every night. There isn’t very much I would do differently on this tour-perhaps I’d bring an extra person with to record footage and take pictures. I think I can safely say it was a great success and there were no major mishaps and catastrophes. Thank you SO much to everyone who supported me on this, and made this happen-from the Flier design by Bunny, the support bands who played with us, drove home drunk, party animals, the venue owners for their support, the people who shared their weed with us and drove in front of us to ensure we didn’t get lost. The friends who advertised and spammed with me, the amazing people who offered us a place to crash and most of all, thank you to all the metalheads across the country who came out to rock with us.
On Behalf of Shajol, Boargazm and Emalyth-South African Metal-we salute you!